Thursday, December 27, 2012

Homemade Play Dough and Backpacks

I wasn't ready for Christmas this year.  I am never ready with the presents, but this year I just wanted to journey a bit longer through Advent.  If you don't know me (odds are, you do, but if you don't...), I must confess a deep and abiding love for the liturgical year.  I am pretty sure Jesus celebrated Advent before his birthday each year and he most certainly gave up chocolate during Lent.


This year we are serving a new church (I know, I may have mentioned this once before), and to be honest I was nervous.

Would we ponder enough?  Would we struggle enough?  Would we face the coming of Christ with new wonder and trepidation?

Our families arrived and I just wasn't ready.

The decorations were up, the meals were planned and the gifts were assembled, but I just wasn't ready.

I was still cogitating as they say.

Then a wonderful thing happened.  Over the weekend we went to six church services and each one brought with it one message, "I am here now.  You are home."

Welcome to Asheville, heart.

The children were thrilled by the pageantry and I confess to more than one tear when we raised our candles during Silent Night.  For an Advent entitled, Journey to Bethlehem, I give my whole-hearted huzzah!  And now...

Merry Christmas!

We are home!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Hail, Mary, Full of Grace

Today I have an essay in our church's Advent devotional.  I hope you will download the whole thing and enjoy the spirit of this season!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A gentle day

In the flurry of the holidays, it is sometimes nice to look back at a gentle day and smile.  Porch sitting, apple spinning and napping with daddy!  Doesn't get better than this!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Lully Lullay

Lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
By, by, lully, lullay.
Lullay, Thou little tiny Child.
By, by, lully, lullay.
There is a part of the Christmas story that we do not tell to our children on Christmas morning, it has never been a part of any Christmas pageant I have ever seen and this week it has been haunting my thoughts and prayers.

It is like our whole kingdom's birth is all about love and inclusivity and social justice except for the part where some guy KILLS ALL THE BABIES!  My heart just wants to scream, "what the #@$&, God?"
O sisters, too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day;
This poor Youngling for whom we sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.

I hate this story.  It is all the worst of life rolled into one little, tiny excerpt.  I want to yell and scream and protest that this is not the God that saves Mary from stoning or finds Zaccheus in the tree.  This is a Olympian God who promotes God's agenda and if all the babies die...well, the hero escapes, so it's all good.  I hear the voice of the Psalmist raging out, "How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?"  

Do the ends justify the means?

Could any ends justify those means?

Herod the King, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day;
His men of might, in his own sight,
All children young, to slay.

And yesterday, another day of weeping.  Another day of overwhelming sadness.  Another day of lament.  

But we skip lament in our stories, so we don't have any framework for this grief.  So, we say it is God's plan, all things have a good purpose or just vaguely pray for comfort.

I say no!  

I say we stop and scream and lament.  For the moment that an enraged king orders every child under two killed or a gunman opens fire on children is no other thing than hell.  The why's and how's are out there, but the spirit of the thing is hell.  

God stopped and wept.

I believe that God's heart weeps with the mothers of those innocents and those many long years ago, I know God wept with Rachel.  And God weeps when a child is stolen for sex or whimpers and dies of starvation or is abandon or beaten or lost.  These things are hell.  God weeps when a homeless woman hears herself ridiculed.  That is hell.  God weeps when people are rejected for being different.  That is hell.  And God weeps when a man's hurt, pain and confusion turns violent.  That is hell.

These are not God's plan.  These are things about which God weeps and we also must weep.  Deeply.  

Is there a hell?  Yes, when we hurt and hate and reject, that is hell.  Those children died at Herod's hand and hell came to earth and although we all know Easter is coming and there is a powerful good coming, it is worth a moment of lament and grief to remember why our "souls thirst for God."  On the long road to Bethlehem this year, we have all been forced to remember that love might win, but pain and loss is real and there are times of weeping. 
Then woe is me, poor Child, for Thee,
And ever mourn and say;
For Thy parting, nor say nor sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Blood and Water

The nativity of our faith is a story of life.  Our precious nativity sets don't reveal the real grit at the bottom of this story.  First, Mary, terrified, facing an angel who is giving her news that will change her life forever.  Will she risk everything to say yes to God's call?  Will she risk losing her place, her home, even her life to say yes?  And Joseph, his scriptural right was to throw rocks at Mary until she died, but my nativity scenes didn't come with a pile of rocks.  Joseph chose life and love even if it meant making a fool and spectacle of himself.  And shepherds.  We don't even have names for them.  A nameless, faceless group who lived in fields with sheep...sans showers.

But it is also a story of a generous, mysterious God who did not abandon Mary without hope or help.

But do we choose to find abundance or poverty in this story.

Is this generosity?  A first time mom, terrified of giving birth, terrified of leaving her family to go with a man she has not learned to trust yet to a strange town when she knew her child's birth was close.  In those last weeks she would have thought of little besides the coming birth of her baby.  And now, she is standing outside the inn waiting to be let in to the relative safety of a room with a bed and a mid-wife.  Babies are rarely born without warning, and Mary was probably gripped by fear and terror at the thought of giving birth to her first child away from her home and family.

But there was no room for them at the inn.

Is this abundance?  I can see Joseph's shaking hands as he tries to clear a place for his increasingly terrified almost-wife.  He is ashamed to be unable to provide a suitable place and angry that his strong, skilled hands have no idea how to help a baby into the world.

But he did.

Was there a mid-wife?  Did someone bring hot-water and towels?  We don't know, but we do know that shortly after Jesus's birth, simple, lowly shepherds who knew the way of birth and suckling and new life, came and worshipped the baby.  The gospels don't tell us that they helped, but I hear the heart of God there.  These men would have been comfortable handling a new-born lamb and would have known some of those things that babies need in those first few hours.

A kingdom for the nameless, quiet, dirty ones.

God let God's own self be birthed in a dirt-floored animal shelter, but God found gentle souls to come and share in those first moments of love.  God did not leave Mary without a protector and God did not leave her without help, but she could have found heaps to complain about in her story.  When we say yes to God's call and find ourselves in a dirt-floored animal shelter, do we look for the gentle, humble shepherds who check the baby's cord and tidy up the afterbirth or do we decide God has abandoned us because it didn't turn out as we had expected?

Do we look for abundance or poverty in our story?

Friday, December 7, 2012

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Through rain or snow or kinda chilly but still unseasonably warm weather

Today we wrote a letter to our mail carrier.  Laine drew a very fancy picture.  I wrote a note.  We included a little gift.

Then I realized I didn't even know if we were writing to a he or a she.

Shame on me.

Nice, Andrea, nice.

So, I guess today's lesson from Advent is to notice the people around you.


Tomorrow: Visit a nursing home or shut in

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

We interrupt your regularly scheduled program...

...for our Indian summer. And we are soaking it up!

Our feet are dirty, our clothes are unfolded, and dinner is summer-brief, so if you are waiting on your daily service announcement...we will be back when it rains.

Love and hugs from our bunch!

Monday, December 3, 2012

An Advent of Service

In typical fashion, I have waited until just after the last minute to get my act together for a project.  This year for Advent we are going to celebrate with daily acts of service and kindness.  If you would like to have the whole list early, please leave me a comment below.

Today the service activity is making cards (to be delivered to a nursing home on Thursday).  We will probably find some idea on Pinterest like hand print trees or something (I will pin whatever we find to the "Advent" board).  Hopefully I will follow up with a picture this afternoon.  That would be fun.  Also unlikely.

In other news, my son has discovered Samson.  He was riveted by the story.  He is now upstairs knocking down towers.

Actual quote:

"Annabel (with thick whine), Samson was going to knock that tower down!"
"Soah--weeeee, Waine!"

My house is not going to survive.

Hope your Advent is starting to twinkle.  I hope you find some way to connect with the coming of Christ's gentle kingdom during Advent.

Tomorrow: Prayer Service

PS Why is my dog licking the couch?
PSS Why do I shelter, protect, feed and cuddle an organism who licks the couch.
PSSS If the dog told my kids about it, they would lick the couch too.